Though these days the term wordmonger refers to "a writer or speaker who uses language pretentiously or carelessly," please join me in proposing a new meaning. A fishmonger appreciates and promotes fish, therefore, a wordmonger does the same for words.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Guys & Dudes

Guys & Dudes

Having moved the last two weeks toward deep, philosophical waters, I’ve decided it’s time for something light & breezy, hence, guys & dudes

Dude first appeared in print in New York in 1883, meaning a fastidious man & member of “an aesthetic craze” that was popular at the time. By 1921, dude had lost any hint of luster, and was being used in a derogatory fashion to label city slickers ignorant of country ways. Dudes showed up to work the cattle, faces shaved, hair oiled, in comically exaggerated hats and chaps. By the 1940s, dude was given a positive shine by zoot suiters acknowledging one another’s trendiness. In the 1960s dude became cool on two fronts: the African American scene & the surfing scene. Since then, dude has grown from a mere noun to both noun & interjection meaning nearly anything the speaker intends. Dude! Is that a trendy, surfing cow chasing us?

Guy, on the other hand, hit print in 1350, meaning guide or leader. It’s related to the English word guide & the Italian name, Guido. Guy established its nautical meaning by 1603, a rope used to guide a load being raised or lowered. Another meaning of guy was inspired by the infamous Guy Fawkes, instigator of the 1605 Gunpowder Plot (a plan to explode not only the King, but the entire Parliament). This meaning referred to the burning effigies of Guy Fawkes paraded through the streets of London once the plot was revealed. Guy reached the New World in 1836, meaning a grotesquely or poorly dressed person, believed to have been born of all those shabbily constructed effigies. It wasn’t until 1898 that guy simply meant a man or fellow. Today, there are those who argue it maintains that meaning, yet modern American usage has removed any sense of gender. Hey guys, check out that shabby, flaming effigy. Dude!

So followers, what are your thoughts on whether guy has maintained its original gender association, or whether dude is mostly complimentary? Or if you’d like to open up a true can of worms, what do you have to say about guys & dudes?

My thanks go out to this week’s sources,,, & the OED.



  1. Dude! Are you a smart guy or what? Thanks for this. You make words make sense.

  2. Funny how both of these common references to male folk have some historical basis in fashion (good or bad) Is there a modern day term for a man of fashion? Fashionisto?

  3. Well, I was clueless here! Raised in the back woods of Oregon, I that dude meant you were a ranch hand or a cow puncher. I didn't know that city slickers came to work on a ranch and were called dude. Hmmm!

    Keep educating us, Charlie.

  4. I think there should be guydudes and galdudes, though I'm less amenable to dudeguys and dudegals. But let us not forget our four-footed furry friends, as in "Dudeguydoggie" etc. (or the preferred "Guydudedoggie" ((preferred, I am told, in Los Osos, CA.)) (((I am told by an anonymous governmental official who, as such, has the power to do and say whatever he/she damn well pleases)))))))).
    ---SK Figler (

  5. Hey Jean Ann, Anne, Christine & Steve,
    Thanks for dropping in. Dude! It's good having you guys around.